I wrote, yesterday, about my distaste for protectionism, and I have, in the past, described myself as an ardent free trader. I believe, very firmly, that the historical evidence is clear: free trade is better for everyone in the mid to long term.
Now, The Economist newspaper takes a look at the worrying rise of protectionism in America.
For the record, while I cannot prove that trade wars always (or even often) lead to shooting wars, the evidence seems quite clear to me that nations that enjoy free(er) trading relations seldom go to war with one another. Back in 1990s, in his book ‘The Lexus and the Olive Tree,’ the American author/journalist Thomas Friedman proposed the Golden Arches theory which says that: “No two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.” That theory got blown out of the water before it was even developed by, for example, the US invasion of Panama, but, in general, it holds up pretty well. Countries in Thomas Barnett’s ‘Functioning Core‘ do not go to war, very often, with one another, while countries in his ‘Non Integrating Gap‘ (not “integrated” into the global trade system) seem to be constantly in turmoil and armed conflict either internally or with one another. Free(er) trade is not the only reason but it seems evident, to me, that it is part of the very definition of “functioning.”
If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau really wants Canada to do some productive peacekeeping then he should be pushing the ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement through parliament rather then allowing Chrystia Freeland to try to buy the support of Big Labour by threatening to not ratify the TPP. Not only should Canada take the lead in ratifying the TPP ~ no matter what the USA does ~ we should be moving, quickly, to help the Philippines join it, too, and to negotiate a free trade agreement with China. Those actions, by our Canadian trade bureaucrats, are far more likely to help “keep the peace’ than will sending a few baby-blue beret wearing Canadians off to some African hot spot. But free(er) trade has many enemies, including Big Labour and many nationalists who are prominent in the Laurentian Elites that bankroll the Liberal Party of Canada. To those people wasting Canadian resources (blood and treasure) in pursuit of a worthless seat on the UN Security Council is more important than actually strengthening Canada’s position in a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world.
It is also important to recognize that the USA is drifting, without much real reason, back into protectionism. Donald Trump’s off the cuff musings are not the real problem. The serious threat is that Hillary Clinton has been bought and paid for by the most powerful protectionist forces in America and, indeed, around the world. The idea of a more peaceful and prosperous world, built on a foundation of free(er) trade amongst an ever increasing pool of competing nations, will not find many friends in Washington DC.
Protectionism aims to “beggar they neighbour” by denying them access to our markets. It aims, in fact, to keep the poor “down,” exactly what many Liberals say they don’t want to do. Free(er) trade helps to build confidence and peace; it ought to be the cornerstone of Canada’s foreign policy. One of the better ways to help defeat terrorism is to help e.g. the Philippines, to prosper by helping it to join the TPP. Prosperity is a better counter insurgency tool than is a US Navy SEAL or a bomb delivered by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Our foreign policy goal ought to be to replace this …
… with this …
… Canada should “reserve” its military for actual hard power type jobs and then make better use of our soft power by being exemplary free(er) traders.